Journeys Within Named Official Travel Partner for Cambodia’s ChubMet Music & Art Festival 2017!

By Anna Baldwin

The team at Journeys Within are delighted to have been named the official travel partner for the ChubMet Music & Art Festival in 2017, highlighting the strengthening connection between the tour company and the creative communities in Cambodia. The ChubMet Music & Art Festival brings together an exciting blend of popular Cambodian and international artists performing live in Siem Reap. The festival kicks off on 17th February with the opening carnival to be held in the popular Kandal Village and offers a range of superb and varying performances throughout the program. And the grand finale, taking place at the stunning Jaya House RiverPark on 2nd March, sees none other than the internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Joss Stone performing as part of her Total World Tour!

Joss Stone

As official travel partner for the festival, Journeys Within are very much looking forward to welcoming the soul songstress to temple town and showing her some of the beautiful sights of the Kingdom of Wonder as part of this unique and inspiring festival.

In addition, we are offering a range of exciting touring options surrounding the festival allowing travelers the chance to experience the pleasure of the artistic movement as it returns to its former glory in Siem Reap and all around the Kingdom. We are also offering a select number of concert guests the very special opportunity to meet with Joss Stone after her concert as part of an exclusive VIP Ticket and Tour Package.

Here are examples of the ChubMet Music & Art Festival itinerary options –

ChubMet Music and Art Festival Grand Tour with Joss Stone Concert

ChubMet Music and Art Festival Mini Tour with Joss Stone Concert

Joss Stone in Concert – VIP Ticket and Tour Package 

Some additional fantastic performances that can be experienced at selected venues around Siem Reap during the festival include:

–          The Giant Puppet Parade which sees over 500 children participate in fun and creative workshops in the lead up to the annual parade. The children’s enthusiasm grows until it bursts onto the streets of Siem Reap on the evening of 18th February, snaking its way from the city center to the Royal Gardens with free musical performances to conclude the event.

–          A Battle of the Bands contest in which a number of talented and determined musicians battle to prove they are Cambodia’s best rock band on 21st February.

–          Live urban art and hip hop evening with performances from UK rap sensation Professor Elemental, French rapper 12me with Cambodia’s DJ Niko Yu, DJ Cake and rappers Lisha, Parker Jones & Juvie Lin, as well as live urban art from Chifumi & Mike Ysk performing at a free concert on 23rd February.

–          Modern music inspired by ancient sounds in which you can experience performances by Rasmee, Krom Monster and The Kampot Playboys each using traditional instruments in very different genres (Soul, Electronica and Rock) on 24th February.

There is fun for everyone in Siem Reap during this fantastic festival and we welcome you to join us and witness the revival of Cambodia’s creative movement, and the chance to meet one of the world’s most talented soul singers in person!

Contact us now for more information on how to experience this once-in-a-lifetime celebration of arts and music in Cambodia, there are only limited tickets available!

Journeys Within partner Four Seasons Tented Camp Chiang Rai introduces “Explorer’s Lodge”

The Explorer’s Lodge – Photo Credit: The Four Seasons

We love working with the Four Seasons Tented Camp and with this new addition we are even more excited to offer our guests the Four Seasons experience!

The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, already a leader in the glamping world, has announced a new two-bedroom option – The Explorer’s Lodge.  This luxury tent was designed to accommodate four people, but can accommodate up to six with the addition of extra beds.  The Lodge features one king-sized bed (which can also be exchanged for twin beds), two single beds, an en suite bathroom in each room, and a large deck with a plunge pool.

The Explorer’s Lodge – Photo Credit: The Four Seasons

Previously, the Deluxe Tent and Superior Tent options tents at this property were designed for two people per tent.  The addition of the Explorer’s Lodge makes the Four Seasons Tented Camp the perfect option for families with older kids (this property does have a minimum age requirement of 10 years old), or a group of friends traveling together seeking adventure, ultimate relaxation and to experience the wonders of Northern Thailand.

The Explorer’s Lodge – Photo Credit: The Four Seasons

This amazing property provides the ultimate escape, and many tours and experiences are included with your stay.  Guests can choose from experiences such as top-notch spa treatments, foraging walks, cooking classes, elephant mahout training or take excursions out on a long-tail boat on the Mekong River to visit the famed Golden Triangle.

The Explorer’s Lodge – Photo Credit: The Four Seasons

The views from The Four Seasons Tented Camp are simply stunning – visitors can see the Ruak River, Burma, the mountains of Laos, Golden Triangle, and the beautiful and lush jungle.  In spite of the natural surroundings, amenities such as wifi and a refrigerated private bar provide all the comforts of the modern world.   The goal of this property is to allow guests to enjoy nature while relaxing in the ultimate luxury.  So, in order to let the sounds of nature carry through the camp, the luxury tents do not include televisions, DVD players and radios.

The Explorer’s Lodge – Photo Credit: The Four Seasons

We love this property, and are excited to share the wonderful news that it has become more accessible for families and groups of friends.

Ko Ni’s Funeral – Updates from the Ground

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon – Photo Credit: Karen Brunings

By Nicole Long

This past Sunday, January 29th, top legal advisor to Myanmar’s ruling party of Aung San Suu Kii’s National League for Democracy (NLD), Ko Ni was shot outside Yangon’s international airport. Ko Ni was a revered lawyer and served as a constitutional expert and advisor to the NLD.  He had been working on amendments that would further challenge the role of the military and its 2008 constitution.  He was well-respected for his work for the NLD and as a prominent Muslim in a predominantly Buddhist nation.

This Monday, 24 hours after his tragic death, an estimated 100,000 mourners, including family members, lawyers, NLD activists and members of the diplomatic corps, attended his funeral in Yangon.

The lone gunman has been detained and is currently in police custody. The official statement and reports are that this attack was political in nature and should not be thought of as an act of terrorism.  Officials continue investigation as to who was behind the assassination.

Even though there is political and religious unrest in some remote areas of Myanmar, political killings are very rare, especially in Yangon and the countries major cities.

Journeys Within’s team in Myanmar has reported that while there is more heightened security at the airports, people generally feel safe and major tour destinations remain peaceful. There have been no protests or public disturbances resulting from this singular attack and operations run as normal.

If you are traveling in or to Myanmar at this time, we believe there is no reason for concern or worry due to this tragic event.  We will certainly keep monitoring the situation and will keep all of our guests updated about any new developments that will effect travel or safety. We feel that the situation does not warrant any cancellations at this time.

A lone monk in Mrauk U – Photo Credit: Andrea Ross

For more information, you can read more about Ko Ni’s death here:

BBC News: Myanmar: Leading lawyer Ko Ni assassinated at Yangon airport

BBC News: Ko Ni death: Thousands mourn shot Myanmar lawyer

Visiting the Grand Palace

As several months have passed since King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away, we wanted to give our travelers an update on what they can expect when visiting the Grand Palace.

Travelers visiting the Grand Palace – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

When King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October, official mourning was declared, meaning that:

For the first 30 Days:  A month of Deep Mourning was required for all Thai people.  All public buildings were required to display the king’s photo and many created small memorials to him.  Many public billboards displayed photos of the King and black and white drapes could be seen throughout Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  Most of these memorials and displays can still be seen.

For the first 100 Days:  This marks the traditional Buddhist mourning period and allows Thais to ‘make merit’ for the dead. The majority of Thai people and expats followed this period, by choosing to continue wearing black beyond the required 30 day period.  The closing for the cleaning of the Grand Palace was marking the end of the 100 days of mourning.  Now you will begin to see more and more people wearing colors other than black.

For a full year: All government and public service officials are required to mourn for a year and wear only black, or black and white.  The King’s body will lie in state for this full year, and citizens from all across Thailand have been traveling to Bangkok to pay their final respects.  Some of the well-wishers take 7 hour bus rides from the far provinces of Thailand to sit on the sidewalks in the sun through the heat of the day to await their turn to enter the Royal Palace.  Once inside, the hallways are converted into queues for those wishing to see the King, and pay their last respects.

Mourners sitting in the hallways of the Grand Palace, awaiting their turn to pay their last respects to the King lying in state – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

Outside the palace, the army, navy, police, nurses, firemen and volunteers all have aid stations to care for, shelter, feed and provide first aid the mourners.  Volunteers also collect garbage to keep the streets clear.  Taxi drivers have been giving Thai citizens rides to the Palace for free.  Overall, there is a strong feeling of unity and general kindness.

Mourners on their way to the Grand Palace – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

Right now the government and the Royal Family are preparing for the cremation of the King.  The Fine Arts Department is under the process of designing this ‘royal funeral pyre’, which is expected to be completed by the end of September and will be double the size of the funeral pyres of previous Thai kings.  (This same department painted a nice mural outside the Palace representing the life of the King and his hobbies.)  This process involves royal ceremonies of ritual homage and religious ceremonies both before and after the pyre.  Our team will continue to monitor for Palace and government building closures.  Last Saturday, the Grand Palace was closed to mark the end of the 100-day Buddhist mourning period, and the entire area was cleaned and the aid stations were reduced from 17 to 6 locations to make way for the construction.  You can find more information about the construction of the royal funerary process here.

Mourners from the far provinces of Thailand are traveling to Bangkok to pay their last respects to the King – Phone Credit: Courtney Ridgel

What this means for travelers:

– Be aware that visitors to the Grand Palace are still expected to dress entirely in ‘mute’ colors – black or dark navy.  Avoid wearing red or maroon out of respect.  Visitors showing too much skin (i.e. – tank tops, shorts, etc.) will not be permitted to enter the Grand Palace.  Our guides have told us that they recommend close-toed shoes, although you may get by with sandals.

Be sure to dress respectfully when visiting the Grand Palace – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

– It may take longer than usual to approach, enter and exit the Grand Palace due the number of visitors, and parts of the Palace may be restricted for foreign travelers or closed altogether.  You will need to pass through multiple security checkpoints and any bags are subject to search.

Part of the mural painted outside the Grand Palace which depicts Bhumibol Adulyadej’s life. Here is he is portrayed composing music on the piano. – Photo Credit: Courtney Ridgel

– Please remember that deep respect should be shown to the King and Royal Family at all times. Showing respect for King is the law (known as the lese majeste laws) and all people within Thailand, including foreigners, are required to abide by this law.  Additionally, the Thai people loved their King and deeply mourn his passing.

Memorial shrines to the King can be found in almost any building and in many public spaces such as temples and markets. – Photo Credit: Ms Well, Journeys Within Guide

Vegan-friendly Dining in Southeast Asia

Vegans Rejoice!  Chiang Mai, Saigon and Bangkok have been named among the top ten Vegan-Friendly Cities in Asia by PETA.  After seeing the article, we sent our team out to see if we agreed.   We asked our team about their favorite vegan meals and where to go:

Travelers can find a variety of fresh vegan dishes in Southeast Asia – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Joy & Chris, Thailand: “Our favorite vegan dishes are stir-fried mixed vegetables, Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with spicy sauce, Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu (ask for no egg and no meat), and Vegetarian Som Tam.  You can find these delicious local dishes almost anywhere!”

Lotus Rice (Com Sen) – rice and vegetables with cooked lotus seeds – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Michelle & Khoa, Southern Vietnam:   “The Loving Hut is a great place!  It closes at 9pm except for vegan/vegetarian days of the Buddhist calendar when it stays open a bit longer. It is a great location, but you will need a car or motorbike taxi to get there and English-speaking skills are limited so we recommend having your guide assist you.   The food is hot, delivered quickly and delicious, and the menu has a lot of variety.  For kids and less adventurous visitors, there are even options such as vegan burgers, pizza and Spaghetti Bolognese versions.   Some of the items we liked were the sea nuggets rolled with seaweed, the Vietnamese-style papaya salad, the Kumquat & coconut juice, and hot soya milk.”

‘Sea Nuggets’  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

We also recommend Hum Vegetarian, Cafe & Restaurant and 3 Lá Vegetarian and you can find dishes such as lotus rice, “vegan pork” in clay pot, and fresh “vegan beef” rolls dipped in pineapple and mushroom sauce.

Vietnamese-style Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du Viet)  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Remember, if you have dietary preferences, requirements or allergies – be sure to let our team and your guides know so that we can have translation cards made for you and so we can recommend the best restaurants for your needs.

Fresh vegan spring rolls with peanuts  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen